The key to affordable and comfortable rural living will be the way in which National Grid, the Scottish Government, councils, communities and the renewable energy industry plan and deploy clean energy and its supporting infrastructure in the next 15 years. Renewables now provide the equivalent of 69 per cent of the electricity consumed in Scotland. To meet the challenge of the next decade, large parts of the transport and heating sectors will also need to decarbonise. Early adoption of integrated energy systems – as in Orkney, for example, where tidal and wave power, wind, solar, energy storage and more all work together – has already placed rural areas at the forefront of the new energy system. It’s time to capitalise on the benefits of that and plan the infrastructure needed for a vibrant and expanding rural economy. It is time for the renewable energy sector, in which I’ve been employed for three decades, to work with government and councils to identify the needs of future rural communities, then engage to explain the options. One route for heating, for example, is increased deployment of heat pumps, which use a small amount of electricity to compress warmth in the environment, enabling it to be used to heat a building. It is clear that a town with a traditional 11,000-volt power line will struggle to meet the new loads placed upon it by EVs and air- or ground-source heating systems. If that line requires an upgrade, who pays? One solution is to plan a series of renewable energy projects close to, but not on top of, rural towns and villages. They can bring the upgraded lines with them and provide local EV charging points and much more. When a local community can relate a spinning turbine or a sunny day with cheap heat and transport, the partnership between local generation and a vibrant rural economy will have arrived.
Herald 7th Jan 2019 read more »